Smile ~ An Example of Belief System Formation




where does the belief system come from
Darlene Ouimet ~ Smile

One of the biggest uncomfortable and reoccurring memories that I have is of constantly being told to smile. It was not encouragement, it was a directive. I didn’t realize it at the time, I was too young when it started but today I know that it was a judgment of me. It was said “as a judgment”  

I wonder why no one asked me why I was so unhappy. I bet my mother would say that she did ask. But what I remember is her asking why I didn’t smile more like this; “Why don’t you smile Darlene… you always look so sullen.” That was a rhetorical question.  She didn’t want an answer. She was not concerned. She just didn’t want me to look “sullen”.

It is important to keep in mind however, that it doesn’t matter what her intention was. It was what I heard that matters because the message that I got from this “request” or “judgment” is the damage that I had to overcome. The message received was the damage. That is what I am talking about when I talk about overcoming damage and having to find out what the damage actually was in the first place.

I was extremely quiet. Perhaps “withdrawn” is a better word.  Didn’t anyone think that there was a reason for that? 

I heard the whispers about me. I heard the question “what is wrong with her?” many times. I don’t think that statement or question helped me become the happy child that they “wanted” me to be. It made it worse.

I overheard a conversation once between my mother and her sister (my Aunt) when I was somewhere around the age of 8 or 9.  They were discussing my “sullenness” and my constant headaches. It was not so much that they were concerned about me that struck me, but they were trying to decide what was WRONG with me.  I connected the word sullen with the smile directive and put all those messages together. My belief system had already begun to form that something was wrong with me and this conversation just added another layer to it. (I did not think about “why” I was so withdrawn. Only that they thought something was wrong with me)

I was getting worried about me too.  Something was “wrong with me” and nobody knew what! My grandfather got sick and he had cancer and was going to die.  Perhaps that is what was “wrong with me”. Maybe that is why I had so many headaches. 

I had heard about kids who were “different” at school; kids who were born “not normal” and I worried that maybe THAT was what was wrong with me.  I had to find out what was wrong with me so I could overcome it, fix it or hide it.  If I didn’t figure it out, I would never be acceptable ~ never be good enough and never be loved!

I heard my Aunt say that perhaps my difficult birth and the fact that they Doctors used forceps caused more damage than anyone had considered. She said that perhaps the Doctors didn’t know there was damage because I was just a new born baby.  The message that I got was that “what was wrong with me” may have been caused at birth.  Can you see how this false message began to form a “belief” in my belief system?  

Hearing this stuff made things far worse for me. Hearing their judgments increased my fear of being rejected and of being thrown away. Hearing this stuff confirmed that something WAS wrong with me, (just as I already suspected) and that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough.  If only I could just pretend to be happy and remember to smile. I couldn’t force myself to smile and that make me feel like a failure. My belief system was well on the way to cementing the self blame.

When I was in my twenties I overheard another conversation; I heard this same Aunt telling someone that I had brain damage from the difficult birthing experience.  Now, the “perhaps” part got dumped out of that story. (because my mother was not part of the conversation). She could say this “behind my mother’s back” and because it was so “normal” and common for me to hear this kind of “backstabbing” I didn’t really think much of it.  The way that I processed it was to feel sad that people were still wondering “what is wrong with me” and I was still wondering what was wrong with me too.  I believed that I had “failed” to HIDE whatever was wrong with me.

I was labeled “sullen” but no one wanted to know why. No one was interested enough to dig into the where that may have come from. How does a child become so unhappy and withdrawn? I was content to believe that something was simply “wrong with me” and I was born with something wrong with me. Even I stopped questioning why I was so withdrawn and tried to accept that I was just different and likely defective.

Maybe they already knew why I was so unhappy, but pretending that our lives were “normal” was more important than doing something about it.  OR maybe they were just as unhappy as children and they thought that all children are unhappy. Or maybe the accepted that life is really not a happy journey and why should MY childhood be any different than the one they had themselves?  None of that matters though, because the damage from the message is what I had to face in order to overcome it.  The damaging messages that now lived in my belief system had to be discovered at the roots and set back to the truth.

No wonder so many people question the meaning of life. The cycle goes round and round ~ passed from generation to generation.  No wonder there is so much depression, anxiety, addiction and overall coping when most of the world is resistant to looking at the roots of where it began. It is easier to accept a mal functioning gene; I know.. I accepted that for many years too, but it was when I faced the real roots of my belief system that I found freedom. It was when I began to understand where these false beliefs originated; where and how my belief system formed, that I was able to see the lies and overcome those false beliefs.

There was nothing wrong with me.  I was withdrawn because I was being abused; I had endured (and was still enduring) sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional /psychological abuse.  I used the fact that I didn’t “smile enough” as one of the many answers to the question, “what is wrong with me” because that is what survivor mode is all about.  We take the blame on ourselves because we are too young to know any different. Taking the blame (self blame) is part of the coping method. Imagine the fear and hopelessness if we blame the adults in charge of our care. I had to find out the things like this “smile example” that I used to confirmed the lies forming in my belief system in the first place.  

Today I smile! My smile is natural; not something I have to think about and not something that I am EVER reminded to do.  My smile is born out of freedom and wholeness and from living in the truth. My smile comes from inside of me and shines through. I like my smile. I FEEL my smile in my heart as though it is a live part of me.

Perhaps after many years of not smiling, I had a lot of catching up to do!

Please share your thoughts! I look forward to how hearing about how this article will impact people.

There is Freedom on the other side of Broken

Darlene Ouimet

related posts see highlighted words in colour  also see: Manipulative and Controlling people and some control tactics

Beleif System Formation via the message Received in Childhood

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


98 response to "Smile ~ An Example of Belief System Formation"

  1. By: Hobie Posted: 19th April

    One of my most vivid memories from elementary school was when the gym teacher (male) smacked the side of my head and demanded that I “smile”. I was just walking through the hallway in the middle of an average sized crowd, probably at the end of the day when everyone was on their way to buses or after-school activities. He was just passing by.

    Looking back I recognize that I spent most of my elementary school years either terrified or numb and no one cared what was going on inside me. They just got angry that I didn’t look right.

  2. By: Justpassingthrough Posted: 11th January

    ….and without flexing a facial muscle I say, “This IS my smile” and keep walking.

  3. By: Connie Posted: 31st December

    And isn’t funny that the one who faded into the woodwork, was the one who ends up with a rage issue. No voice. No validation. No one ever protected me or valued me. If I was to see a 5 year old child tormented like I was by my siblings, I would intervene, tell the other children they were wrong and comfort the small child they were teasing. I don’t remember being there at all…she was too busy fretting about my Dad’s 20th affair or his gambling or money for dinner. For the last 20 years I’ve been trying to “fix” my rage issues, while at the same time I was making the issues worse with daily exposure to my toxic family. One tiny step forward….3 GIGANTIC steps back.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st December

      Hi Connie
      You are making excellent connections here ~ Thanks for sharing them! Sounds like you are finding the roots of your rage issues. It was by finding the roots (where the broken began) that I was able to overcome them.
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Connie Posted: 30th December

    I too was labeled the “quiet” child. Growing up with 12 siblings in a chaotic and dysfunctional family, I faded into the woodwork. I was an over the top rebellious teenager who used drugs. Drug use has followed me through out my adult life and the main issue I have struggled with in my adult years is “rage.” My family used to laugh at me and make fun of me because I was quiet. When I was only 5 or 6 years old, someone would point at me and say, “Don’t look at Connie. If you look at Connie, she’s going to cry.” Then everyone would look at me and I would become so affected by the attention, that I tears would start streaming down my face. And then everyone would laugh at me. Till this day, I HATE BEING THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. I never understood why dancing made me feel so uncomfortable. Although I dated men who really wanted me to get up on the dance floor with them, it made me so self-conscious, I couldn’t do it….even though I was a very beautiful young woman, dancing made me feel weird and out of place. I believe it might have to do with being the “center of attention”….I didn’t like to feel like I was on display or people were watching me. I just want to fade into the woodwork.

  5. By: Marla Posted: 3rd December

    I always heard digs about my appearance from my parents. I can’t remember either of them specifically telling me to smile, but I sure do remember both of them shouting “What’s the matter with you!?” Of course they never really wanted an answer because I wasn’t supposed to talk. I was supposed to stay quiet which I did my best to follow since I didn’t like being shouted at or beaten. I often got comments from dad about being stooped shouldered too…I think I was doing my best to appear as small & unassuming as I possibly could. My dad said I should look proud, but I didn’t feel proud since I was always told that I was a horrible creature.

    The only time I ever had anyone say anything to me about smiling that I really remember, was from my 6th grade teacher. I was in a special ed class because I was considered a problem child. One morning I came in (about 12 years old) & I’d been crying (there were many things going on in my life that most anyone would find emotionally distressing enough to cry about), & she made me sit at my desk & stare into a mirror until I put a smile on my face. She made everyone in the classroom aware of my predicament. I’ll never forget how lousy I felt & then humiliated to have the rest of the class know that I’d been crying. She never asked me what was wrong or what happened…she was just another person who really didn’t care & I got that loud & clear. I learned to keep my thoughts & feelings to myself as a kid.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th December

      Hi Marla
      Wow, what that teacher did is such horrible abuse. I don’t know how people can think that shame and humiliation is what will HELP children to become well adjusted emotionally mature adults.
      Thanks for sharing,
      hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Mimi Posted: 23rd May

    THANK YOU for the prayers. I certainly will include you in mine as well. I was just praying after I wrote the above comment. I spoke to God and the little girl inside me, trying to console her. I know confusion and fear and self hatred do not come from God. And, I love the quote you mentioned from the book. I will use that as a weapon as well. It’s very true, depression is a lie from the enemy!!! So is fear!!! Thank you for that awesome reminder!!
    Praying in hope,

  7. By: Barb Barker Posted: 23rd May

    One more thing to quote a book I read by a lady Brenda Vaughn called ” Why I Jumped” , ” depression is a Liar.” Don’t believe it. I say that every day. That’s how I can even function. Otherwise I’d never believe my husband loved me or I was worth loving. Keep fighting Mimi. I’ll pray for you. That’s all I can offer:0)

  8. By: Mimi Posted: 23rd May

    When I was a kid I had a recurring dream about an unknown man chasing me. When I got into my 30s, I started having recurring bad dreams about my mother and they’ve continued until last year when I started to really come to terms with the person she is.

    I too have been plagued with the depression that seems to steal my joy. I hear the birds and see the beautiful sunshine. Those things used to inspire me to be up and doing things I love, taking in the spring. It gave me energy!! As the years have passed, each spring has become more dull and lifeless. It’s as though I’m dying a slow death, hating myself and life more and more with each passing year, decade.

    I began processing the truth about my mother last year. I’ve worked hard at uncovering and overcoming. Lately though, I am back at square one; questioning myself and every thought I have. Questioning whether she really did love me. I have been convinced she didn’t, until lately. For whatever reason, I have had a huge setback that I can’t shake. It could be the upcoming weekend. All my extended family will be here for my grandma’s 90th birthday. That just makes me feel uneasy. I’ve been working on a letter to my mom, which brings it all up. I’ve been so anxious and fearful, I can hardly function and I haven’t felt disabled by anxiety for several years. I’m puzzled by this setback, and I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll just sit with the pain and anxiety and try to let it settle in me so I can process it from a re-parenting perspective. I had no protection or affection, or understanding growing up. I know this must be where I start to flounder. When life gets hard, I return to that terrified, confused and unconsoled little girl. I don’t know what to do, but I know I have to do something. This many years not living and like you said, hating myself and the way I look, etc. It has to stop sometime.

    Thanks for sharing and listening Barb!
    Very best of life to you!!

  9. By: Barb Barker Posted: 23rd May

    Thanks Mimi,
    It’s a start anyway . I used to have this dream about a black panther and he would grab me . I would scream and scream but no one ever saved me. That’s what my depression has become like. A silent stalker. You know I wake up the birds are singing and am I’ m like no I can’t be like this. It’s so nice out. The suns shining what the hecks wrong with me? I have such a great husband and it’s taken me so long. The friend from college I told really is not someone I would tell. It’s rather strange. But Gods working something in me and I’m so glad. I’m sick of feeling like this. I just want to be free. I don’t want to hate myself anymore. I hate always believing this lie that I’m worthless and ugly and on and on. Thanks. Actually I was reading Ron Paul’s liberty defined and in my search for a different kind of liberty found I was in a prison. Jesus has already freed my heart once. Ron Paul made aware of another kind of liberty my friend Robbie turned the key and now I’m in a battle of sorts. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. To know that these things I go through are normal really is a big help. The fight is on .

  10. By: Mimi Posted: 22nd May

    Thank you for sharing your painful story. It’s so hard to come out with the dark secrets of the past. It’s just ugly pain. I am in awe that you were put into the dryer. I just saw on Yahoo’s homepage that some family was caught putting their child in a washer at a laundramat. They made a mistake though. The washer was the locking kind and it started filling with water and the door was locked with the child inside. I have to think they knew better than that. I wonder how people can be okay with themselves when they’ve been so mean to children. It’s easy to get away with it….. tormenting a child is way easier than tormenting an adult, where they might fight back. So, the kids get the brutal reception of all the stuff that cowards are too chicken to face. Sickening. I’m sorry you went through this, but I celebrate you coming out and talking about it. I hope you feel relief from shining light into your dark past.
    Hugs and love,

  11. By: Barb Barker Posted: 22nd May

    Wow. This is the first time in 34 years I have ever told anyone my story. I was five . My mother has told me all my life . You never smile you are always so angry. I know. Sorry but after the monster you left me with was finished, he threatened to kill me and to make sure he knew I knew he meant it, he threw me in the dryer and turned it on, I think I stopped smiling. Our basement was like a dungeon . Really. My mother just said the same thing to me on mothers day. Your always so angry.its just these past three weeks I finally told a friend. My husband knows and has been helping me for years. It’s been like breaking free from a prison, only sometimes it feels safer to stay behind the bars. The friend I told is a friend from my college days. He knows my husband and I. He encouraged me to write a book. I did. My friend is not someone I would have ever told. Ever. But I found out a family member of his was abused also. It helped me to keep going. Thanks for this site. This is fresh for me. I have cried more tears in three weeks than my entire life. I know one thing . I must be free .

  12. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th May

    Hi Anon girl
    Exactly! I remember realizing the feeling that I was “braced” as though I was expecting to be hit with something emotional or physical. I braced for it always. I don’t miss that feeling at all!
    Thanks for sharing and for being here!
    Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Anon girl Posted: 14th May

    Wow. Darlene, this is exactly the same thing I was told as a child.

    My mother always told me to smile, to stop looking ‘so depressed’ or ‘so sad’.

    My neighbour told my mom that I always look ‘like the world is going to fall on my shoulders’. well – it was. Did no one think WHY I looked like that? Did no one get it? when she told my mom that I looked like that, did my mom not get why?

    I am now 28 and dealing with this stuff, and last year in my job a colleague said to me ‘why do you always look so scared, you look like you think someone is going to hit you’

    Now I was actually never physically abused, I was severely emotionally abused, manipulated and psychologically abused, but I find it so strange that I still look scared like this, as I have been deadling with this stuff for about 2 years now, and even though I am much better, i still have a long way to go.

    To everyone here, I send out a ton of loving thoughts to you all right now. The things that we have gone through are crazy and I just can’t believe that this has all happened in the world, but hey, it did. And we are here. And we are going to make it. Because we are going to work on living a good life every single day.

    * I turn my face towards the sun *

    All my love to all of you here. We can do this! We are doing this already! We are healing.

    All my love,
    Anon girl 🙂

  14. By: Caden Posted: 6th May

    Thank you Darlene, it feels good to share; this is a great community here.

  15. By: Caden Posted: 5th May

    I too was often ordered to ‘smile’ when I was younger, and no one bothered to ask me why I wasn’t happy or didn’t feel like doing it on my own. From a young age I also overheard my mother having very insulting, degrading conversations about what was “wrong with me.” They were sure that I must be the one who was wrong, not them, not the life I was being forced to lead. As I grew older and into my teen years, the explanations forced onto me became more and more insulting–all based around the child-hating ideology my parents and older sister shared.

    The reality was that I had been utterly destroyed by my older brother–who emotionally, physically, and sexually abused me to the point where I completely lost myself, my childhood, and my ability to relate to other people. And they let him do it, and they knew that he did it, but they remained in denial and willful ignorance. Even after I told my mother I was sexually abused though not by who (she didn’t care about the physical and emotional abuse, which she participated in,) she would still come up with these questions like “I wonder if it’s just arrested development, like you still have the mind of a twelve year old.”)

    She had so little respect for my intelligence, self-awareness, feelings, and rights as a person that she insisted on continuing in her denial and deluded, hateful explanations for what was going on with me. I must just be so, so stupid; I couldn’t possibly be a very intelligent, creative 20 year old boy who however had PTSD, an eating disorder, and social anxiety. She continued to talk over me, to speculate about whether I really had an eating disorder or was really sexually abused. Her answer was that I was just too stupid to know how to “eat right” and that I just thought that I was sexually abused despite not remembering anything.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th May

      Hi Caden
      I am so sorry that this happened to you. That is horrific. And it is terrible that you went unprotected and unheard and then accused of being a faker and even a liar. Thank you for sharing, many here can relate to what you are saying. I am glad you are here,
      Hugs, Darlene

  16. By: Pinky Posted: 30th March

    Thanks Darlene! Well this blog encouraged me to trust my gut! Thanks for the encouragement!

  17. By: Pinky Posted: 29th March

    Thanks J! I was rambling and in a hurry so my post did that to you! Its the pace of life here in NYC! Just got in! Thanks so much!

  18. By: J Posted: 29th March

    Hi Pinky,

    Bit flooded with thoughts from your post & feels like brain’s not moving fast enough to get them out, but wanted to I wish you well & say I’m thinking of you. Also I really admire the positivity that came thru in your post.

    Keep on taking care of yourself!

  19. By: Pinky Posted: 29th March

    ps- I want to say that without the support of my high school teachers I would not have been able to move on and dance with the NYC ballet, I found my voice in dance due to being validated by my teachers.

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